For those of you who occasionally read my blog, you know I’m in love with the African country of Uganda. Much to my surprise, Uganda was recently named by Lonely Planet as the top country to travel to in 2012. (Lonely Planet publishes guidebooks and other travel material largely directed at the college backpacker crowd.)
According to Lonely Planet:
It’s taken nasty dictatorships and a brutal civil war to keep Uganda off the tourist radar, but stability is returning and it won’t be long before visitors come flocking back. After all, this is the source of the river Nile–that mythical place where explorers sought since Roman times. It’s also where savannah meets the vast lakes of East Africa, and where snow-capped mountains bear down on sprawling jungles. Not so long ago, the tyrannical dictator and ‘Last King of Scotland’ Idi Amin helped hunt Uganda’s big game to the brink of extinction, but today the wildlife is returning with a vengence. This year Uganda also celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence; Kampala, one of Africa’s safest capital cities, is bound to see off the event with a bang. Still, Uganda isn’t without its problems. Human rights abuses aren’t uncommon, and the country breathes a collective sigh whenever President Museveni thinks of another ruse to stay in power for a few more years. But now, as ever, explorers in search of the source of the Nile won’t leave disappointed.
Lonely Planet warns, however: “There is very little social tolerance of homosexuality, which is illegal.”
I have made 5 trips to Uganda and I love the country and its people. Uganda is not overrun with tourists, has great places to visit (including animal parks), and Ugandans are very friendly. English is the national language, however, for most Ugandans, their tribal language is their primary and English is their secondary. If you go to Uganda, spend as much money as you can in-country.
Things to do in Uganda include:
- Visit Murchison Falls National Park: Take the boat up to the spectacular falls and then hike up to the top (and see plenty of game on the boat ride). Also, enjoy the land safari; animals are everywhere. Stay at Red Chili Rest Camp (low end) or across the river at Paraa Safari Lodge (high end).
- Rest at Adrift Adventures near Jinja (headwater of the Victoria Nile): Go rafting (great rapids) or bungee jumping. Enjoy the best bar/restaurant in the world.
- Relax in the Baha’i Temple in Kampala
- Go exploring for chimps, gorillas, and other primates
But most of all, if you go, do volunteer work with one of the many NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that operate in Uganda. You may not help the Ugandans, but you will help yourself. You will never be the same.